Reduce Energy Costs with Daylighting

Daylighting, the practice of creating avenues for natural sunlight to enter your home, is one of the best ways to reduce energy costs. At the same time, it can offer relief for individuals who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) or "winter depression." A great deal of daylighting can be achieved in any home by simply opening the drapes or shutters. Removing the window screens alone increases interior light by as much as 25% depending on the location of the window. Depending on your budget, however, there are a variety of ways to become a super-efficient "daylighter."

Clean Windows and Light Paint

Inexpensive steps toward better daylighting can be as simple as keeping your windows clean and painting the sills white. Reflectivity is the daylighter's good friend. Choose the lightest possible color for paint or wall paper. Rearrange working surfaces, for instance a desk in a home office, to derive the maximum benefit from available light. You may need to vary you work space by time of day, a change made easier by the prevalence of laptop computers, wireless home Internet connections, and cell phones.

Learn About Your Home's Orientation

Windows that face south work especially well in daylighting efforts. They let winter sunlight into the home freely (also providing warmth), while keeping the direct sun of summer away. On the north, windows admit very even light with little glare and almost no summer heat. Windows on the east provide good morning light; on the west good afternoon light. These windows will, however, have significant problems with glare and will let in a great deal of unwanted summer heat. All of these factors should be considered in designing new structures and can be used in existing structures to plan room use throughout the day.


One of the most effective methods of daylighting in existing structures is the installation of Solatube units, which collect light via a roof dome and send it down a reflective, light-bending tube. (Note that the purchase and installation of a Solatube qualifies for a 30 percent federal tax credit.) Unlike conventional skylights, these small, cost-effective tubes require no reframing, dry walling, or other expensive structural alterations. Experienced "do-it-yourselfers" can handle the work, with the maximum tube length extending to 50 feet. The units are sealed against insects and dirt and the roof dome eliminates debris build-up making the Solatube virtually maintenance free. (Solatubes are Energy Star certified.)

While residential solar energy systems are all the rage in the quest for clean, cheap power, they don't represent the only way the sun's rays can lower your electrical bill. Any degree of daylighting, whether achieved by behavior modification, interior derign, or structural augmentations will lower your bills and probably make you feel better in general. Sunlight has been proven to enhance both mood and concentration, making daylighting a win/win proposition for the energy-conscious homeowner.


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